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Museum Exhibits Unveiled

While it’s not unusual for new museums to connect to the past in some way, whether through their collections or locations, the main museums opening this year all bridge the past, present and future in unusual and often striking ways.

Two contemporary art museums that have been exhibiting in other spaces for decades — the Aspen Art Museum and the Perez Art Museum Miami — are relocating and reopening with high-design architecture and stunning new exhibits. Harvard University is colocating all of its museums, including one that has been closed for repairs for six years, into a newly renovated space by Renzo Piano.

In New York under the September 11 Memorial Plaza, the museum commemorating the victims of the terrorist attack combines high-tech interactive elements with gripping, sometimes graphic relics, and in Atlanta, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights ties the historic African-American struggle to contemporary human rights issues through multimedia and live-action exhibits.


National September 11 Memorial and Museum

[ New York ]

Though the September 11 Memorial Plaza is now open for visitors to see the new Freedom Tower, the long-awaited September 11 museum will finally open its doors this summer.

In an expansive space that allows the museum to showcase the remaining architectural features of the World Trade Center, including tridents from the north tower and the last column, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum takes an interactive approach to educating the public about the events and aftermath of that day.

“At the column, there are touch tables where you can pull down the top of the column and home in on a certain etching to get the exact story of that group of people,” said Anthony Guido, communications manager.

The 110,000-square-foot museum lies entirely underground in the footprints of the original towers.

“Underneath the north pool of the memorial plaza, the historical exhibition has three main components,” said Guido. “First you step back to the rise of al-Qaida, then you have the story of what happened that day, and the third piece is the following year, the recovery period.”

Although there will not be a separate group entrance because of the security screening required to enter the building, groups can have a picnic lunch in the plaza or have lunch in the upstairs cafe before or after their tours.

Closer to the museum’s opening, its website will feature suggested tours based on time available and age of visitors. Throughout the museum, areas with more graphic images are well marked.


Perez Art Museum Miami

[ Miami ]

Timed to open with Art Basel Miami Beach last December, the Perez Art Museum Miami connects downtown Miami and the waterfront with a structure from Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron that bridges indoors and outdoors with aerial gardens and light-flooded exhibition spaces.

With three times the space of the previous Miami Art Museum, the new 200,000-square-foot display space moves art into unexpected areas, including the garden and the parking garage, to challenge visitors’ perceptions of space and art appreciation.

Although the museum offers free hourlong public docent tours four times a day that focus on the building’s architecture, the permanent collection or the special exhibition at the time, groups can arrange private programs through the events department for a maximum of 20 people per docent.

“We offer a highlights tour about the permanent collection,” said deputy director for external affairs Leann Standish. “It explores a show we’re running the first year we’re here, called ‘Americana,’ that is running in several galleries of the museum and explores the permanent collection.”

Begun in 1996, the 1,800-piece permanent collection focuses on 20th- and 21st-century art and the globalization of the art world.

The on-site restaurant, Verde, open daily for lunch and dinner on Thursdays, offers modern cuisine from local celebrity chef Stephen Starr. Groups of more than 12 visitors must arrange seating in advance with the museum. Standish recommends timing a visit to experience the Thursday evening programming, when the museum is open until 9 p.m. and runs a wide variety of special programming such as films and DJ nights.

The museum has a drop-off space for buses, which must park off-site, as well as a dedicated stop on the city’s free metro mover downtown transportation system.